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Title:The Steppenwolf Scenario: Establishing the habitus of Chicago’s Off-Loop theatre community
Author(s):Epplett, Shannon
Director of Research:Robinson, Valleri
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Robinson, Valleri
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Graves, Robert; Pullen, KIrsten; Hecht, Stuart J.
Department / Program:Theatre
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Diana Taylor
Pierre Bourdieu
Hull-House Players
Jane Addams
Laura Dainty Pelham
Anna Morgan
New Theatre
Donald Robertson
Chicago Little Theatre
Maurice Browne
Ellen Van Volkenburg
Kenneth Sawyer Goodman
Lake Forest Players
Players' Workshop
Philistine Theatre
B. Iden Payne, Chicago Theatre Society
Chicago Civic Theatre
Alice Gerstenberg
Goodman Memorial Theatre
Thomas Wood Stevens
Federal Theatre Project, Harry Minturn
Chicago Negro Unit
When Chicago Was Young
Swing Mikado
Minnie Galatzer
Actors Company
Mayor Daley
A Program for the Arts in Chicago
Daggett Harvey
John Reich
American Repertory Theatre
Robert Sickinger
Paul Jans
David Mamet
Hattie Callner
The Connection
Paul Sills
The Compass
Playwright's Theatre Club
Sheldon Patinkin
David Shepherd
Mike Nichols, Elaine May
Ed Asner
Barbara Harris
Viola Spolin
Jess Ogden
Charlotte Carr
The Game Theatre
Playwrights at Second City
Second City
Bernie Sahlins
Studebaker Theatre
Rev. Jim Shiflett
Body Politic
Story Theatre
Byrne Piven
Joyce Piven
Community Arts Foundation
Chicago City Players
Byron Hildreth
June Pyskacek
Lincoln Ave.
Storefront Theatre
Stuart Hecht
Catherine Gleason
League of Chicago Theatres
Claudia Cassidy
Richard Christiansen
Glenna Syse
Steppenwolf Scenario
Shannon Epplett
Scott Fosdick
Larry Russo
Kingston Mines
Gary Sinise
John Malkovitch
Laurie Metcalf
True West
Balm in Gilead
St. Nicholas
Wisdom Bridge
Victory Gardens
Abstract:This study focuses on the history, development, and structuring elements of Chicago’s Off-Loop theatre community. My research, grounded in Diana Taylor’s concept of scenarios and Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, takes a sociological lens to the historical antecedents and theatrical predecessors of Chicago’s Off-Loop theatre community to find the origins and bases of the qualities which structure the contemporary theatre scene. These qualities; which I identify as community, collegiality, ensemble, hard work, perseverance, small stages, converted spaces, and contemporary and realistic plays; became the dispositions of the habitus that created the Off-Loop theatre scene. Starting in 1969, this scene developed and grew quickly, and within a matter of fifteen years, a motivating mythology – which I term “the Steppenwolf Scenario” – had emerged. This scenario, centered on the story of Steppenwolf Theatre, drives and structures the city’s theatre scene to the present day. The Off-Loop theatre scene began in 1969 with the founding of Body Politic and Kingston Mines theatres, but the conditions and ideas (in Bourdieu’s terminology dispositions) that created the Off-Loop theatre habitus in some cases date to the end of the nineteenth century, and evolved and coalesced slowly over time. This study looks at the history of non-commercial and non-profit theatre efforts in Chicago, breaking it into three eras divided by the World Wars, leading up to the establishment of the Off-Loop theatre scene. In each era, I trace how the dispositions that serve as the basis for Chicago’s Off-Loop theatre habitus became incorporated into the evolving habitus of the city’s theatrical practitioners. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the social, political, cultural, aesthetic and economic conditions had become favorable for Chicago’s alternative theatrical scene (now dubbed “Off-Loop theatre”) to burst into existence. Within a period of fifteen years, this once alternative theatre scene had become hegemonic, due in large part to the well-established habitus and the development of the Steppenwolf Scenario. While the scenario that I identify bears Steppenwolf’s name, this is not a study of Steppenwolf Theatre – rather, it is the story of a theatre community spinning itself into existence over time, and generating a story to perpetuate itself into the future. This study looks at, to use Diana Taylor’s words, “the ghosts, the images, the stereotypes” that constituted the habitus that created the Off-Loop community, and the scenario that subsequently carries the Off-Loop community forward.
Issue Date:2018-07-05
Rights Information:© 2018 Shannon Epplett
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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